Content marketing is on the rise. 54% of North American marketers plan to increase their spend on content next year. In conjunction with this development there is an increasing need to find effective ways to spread this content. The purpose of content marketing can range from affecting purchase decisions to strengthening the brand image. Besides optimizing search, and proprietary channels, content can be shared with new individuals and communities using social media.
There are several marketing trends that each provide their own solution to this challenge. Two of them are influence marketing and brand advocacy. I plan to combine them, and add tribal marketing, to serve a complete smorgasboard of options that companies and organizations can consider for spreading content in social media.
1. We just do it
This approach is characterized by a lack of thought about who to reach, how, when, what and why. It can be like standing in the middle of a market place shouting with the hope that someone will take notice. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t. The times it works it often ends up “preaching for the quire”.
2. We want to share our content with existing and potential customers
A majority of us don’t want to have ongoing relationships with brands in social media. We primarily visit social media for other reasons, such as hanging out with friends and family. IBM performed a study that demonstrated that a majority wants discounts from the companies they follow. It is important to understand that different groups of people want different things, and that content has to be adapted for those needs. Considering the following 4 options is actually a solution for companies that for some reason don’t want to compete with discounts and lowered prices.
Your most passionate advocates are driven by a positive meaningful experience of your brand. Their passion makes them prone to re-purchase, as well as recommend your content. You can detect these customers by listening to what people say about you online, as well as conducting surveys – such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Timing is of essence! When you conduct the NPS survey and when you activate your most happy customers makes all the difference. The people you decide to work with are labeled ambassadors. A benefit of working with ambassadors is the trust we place in peer-to-peer recommendations.
This approach depends on identifying people that exercise an influence online, and encouraging them to share your content. Some companies pay influencers for this type of services, but it totally depends on the packaging. Many influencers will share content that they feel is relevant to their peers, and/or boosts their social capital (their status).
There are 3 variables which are important for identifying influencers in social media: reach, relevance and influence.
Many companies simply look for reach. They will for example identify a blogger with many readers, and then communicate their latest TV, bicycle or phone without thinking about who the readers are and what the blog is about. The solution is to also examine relevance. Is there a connection between your offer and the theme of the blog? What does the blogger stand for? The third variable is influence and it indicates the quality of the actions being spurred. Someone may have tons of followers, but are they sparking action somehow? For example sharing, or more importantly moving people along the sales funnel.
If you have a brand tribe (brand community) it consists of your most loyal customers. They share a passion for your brand, but also a sense of community, joint rituals and traditions, as well as a yearning to help each other. A healthy brand tribe can be a precious asset, but it also requires work. There are many companies that do a poor job of tending their brand tribes. They need to understand how their community works, what they value, and how it affects individuals within and around it.
Your band tribe will assess the value of the content you share with them. It is important that the content supports and develops their culture rather than operating against it (in regards to values, language and so forth). If your brand tribe loves the content you share, then they can become an important vehicle for spreading your content. They can also contribute with their own content, and improve your own.
Many people confuse consumer tribes with brand tribes, but they are two different types of groups. In contrast to brand tribes that gather around one brand, a consumer tribe finds use for many. They rather gather around a passion, like golf, startups, or agile methods. Brands seldom become the focal point for attention within consumer tribes, but rather assume a facilitating role for joint experiences. Each tribe has their own DNA of stories, places, rituals, language, leaders and values. Our decisions are unconsciously affected by the different tribes we belong to.
It easy to think of influencers as individuals, which they are of course. However influencers always exercise influence within tribes. Regardless if you think about it, your content will be shared within and across tribes. The compatibility of your content with tribal culture affects how well it’s received and passed on. It’s also a bonus if it can boost the social capital of influencers within their tribes. It’s important to map tribal culture, beyond simply identifying influencers, to understand how your content can match the needs of tribes.
As many companies and organizations increase their spend in content marketing, it becomes crucial for them to understand how they can give their content wings. The alternatives presented here include aspects of brand advocacy, influence- and tribal marketing. Regardless what you end up with you should consider them one by one, and as a mix.
One of the most significant differences between the different approaches is that they define targets as individuals or groups. The influence of a group on individuals is always there, whether it’s a brand or consumer tribe. Significant progress has been made during the last few years with the interest in influence marketing and brand advocacy – which tends to focus on individuals- but there is still a lot more to be done.
It is only a matter of time. The future belongs to companies that understand and leverage how their content is valued by individuals and groups..